Midwives deserve higher pay than nurses - union rep

Midwives are sick and tired of having to take whatever scraps the nurses pick up in their pay negotiations.

Members of the union which represents most of them, MERAS, from Thursday will be striking in protest against the latest pay offer, which the Nurses Organisation accepted in August.

MERAS spokesperson Jill Ovens says most midwives don't get a say in the negotiations, and think they're worth more than nurses.

"We're supposed to just roll over and say, 'Thank you, we'll have the same deal,'" she told The AM Show on Thursday.

The strike will see nurses stop working for two hours twice a day over the next two weeks. During strike hours they'll be on-hand to perform life-preserving procedures, but that's all.

"They're in the ward, but they're not doing all the other duties that are not life-preserving," said Ms Ovens.

She said last week the DHBs rejected a "very reasonable" proposal from MERAS that would have seen midwives get a "similar" package to what the nurses got, but with new graduates starting a step higher on the pay scale.

"They actually pay for their own clinical practicum during their degree. [Nurses] consolidate their practical, clinical experience on the wards and being paid - so you're $50,000 behind a new nurse graduate, and all we were asking for is for them to start on step 2 of the [pay] scale."

David Clark.
David Clark. Photo credit: Newshub.

Documents obtained by Newshub in September showed advice to Health Minister David Clark showed a "fair and reasonable remuneration for the work of a community midwife" would be worth $241,000 annually - more than three times what the average midwife makes. The same report, compiled by the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand College of Midwives, recommended against giving midwives the astronomical pay boost because it would be unaffordable.

"Midwives believe they should be paid to recognise their additional skills, qualifications and responsibilities," and it should be more than what nurses get, said Ms Ovens.

National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the industrial action, which follows a nurses' strike in July, shows Dr Clark is "completely out of his depth".

"He promised a huge amount for the health workforce when he was in Opposition. He hasn't delivered, and he's standing on the sidelines, watching the health sector have increasing levels of industrial action, and that's starting to seriously impact on patient care."

Michael Woodhouse.
Michael Woodhouse. Photo credit: Newshub.

He said it's a "trend" under Labour for increasing industrial action.

"The fact that the minister is staying quiet on this at the same time his scandalous handling of the independent midwives' remuneration assessment is just another example of the fact that he's completely out of his depth."

In response, Dr Clark said he was not a part of the midwives' negotiations with the DHBs, and it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on the latest offer.

"I'm advised that DHBs and the midwives union have agreements in place for life-preserving services which mean that women in labour will not be put at risk. I thank midwives for their professionalism in this regard," he told Newshub.